Eleven years ago
Ezinne had not been able to reach Mofe all day and she was getting worried. She’d checked on him in the morning but the gate of his house had been locked. Thinking he’d left for school, she’d gone looking for him there, but no-one in school had seen him either. His phone had been switched off all day and he wasn’t replying her messages. She returned home thinking he might be around in the evening but his gate had still been locked.
She knew the next place to check was his Aunt’s place but it was quite a distance and it was evening already. If she drove there, she might miss him if he was returning home, as Mofe didn’t usually sleep over at his aunt’s place. She decided she would check his place later that night. He would most likely be back by 10pm.
It troubled her that she’d not heard from him all day. Mofe liked to reach her some way or the other, even if all he could send was a text saying he was thinking about her. If he was going to be busy all day and wouldn’t be available, he usually called briefly. This absolute silence from him was really odd and she was worried.
The knock on the door of her room brought her back to the present.
“Ezinne, you there?” It was her father.
“Yeah dad, come in.” She replied, knowing why he was there. She hadn’t filled him in on how her dinner went with Ekene the night before, and she knew he was curious. It was too bad she didn’t have good news for him.
“Hi.. heard you return sometime back. How was your day?” He asked approaching where she sat behind her desk.
“Good,” she shrugged.
“Okay… and your dinner with Ekene last night? Hope you two were able to resolve things?” He asked, watching her reaction.
“No, we weren’t.” She said with a nonchalant shrug. “Not that I thought anything would be resolved anyway.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Her father asked with a frown.She had to tread carefully so as not to get him annoyed, as she had a favour to ask of him.
“Dad, Ekene is… Ekene and I are not compatible. He has some attitude issues and..” She started telling him the same thing she always tried to get him to understand and he cut her off.
“Funny, he says the same thing about you, that you’re the one with the attitude.”
“Dad, please listen,” she tried calmly. “Ekene is… domineering and when he doesn’t get what he wants, he… he gets really scary.”
“I talked to him about that and he promised never to lay a finger on you anymore.” Her father said, as if he believed a promise from Ekene made all the difference.
She shook her head and held back from rolling her eyes, “Promises can be broken, dad. I’m sorry but it’s going to take more than a promise for me to feel safe around him. Besides, I don’t love him, I never had feelings for him, Dad. Not like….” Her voice trailed before she called his name.
Her father looked like he was barely containing his annoyance with her and she didn’t want to infuriate him further. She just wished he would understand what she felt from Mofe.
“Not like this new boy you’re hanging with?” He concluded for her. “The one that cleans our cars and does all the odd jobs in the estate?” He said with such disdain that Ezinne cringed.
“He’s much more than that, Dad.” She got up from the seat to approach her dad. She was determined to make him understand this time, so she ignored the insults at Mofe. “Dad, just have one meeting with him. Just meet him and talk to him, you’ll see he’s so much more.”
Her father’s gaze held hers and it took all her will not to look away. He wasn’t convinced.
“I don’t need to meet him, Ezinne. He’s not for you and whatever you think you feel for him will pass in time. Feelings come and go.”
“Feelings come and go?” She asked him, not believing she was hearing this from a man who’d never been able to remarry after he’d lost his wife, her mother.
“Yes Ezinne, they do.” He reaffirmed.
“Like how yours went when mom passed away?” She asked and he took a sharp breath. Fire flashed in his eyes and for a moment she stilled, knowing she’d struck a nerve.
“That’s different,” he clipped. “Your mother was… your mother was like no other woman …..” he struggled for the right words to describe the only woman he’d ever loved.
“She was like no other you’ve ever known, right?” She completed. “Why do you think Mofe isn’t like that to me?”
Her father scoffed. “Oh please, Ezinne. You’re too young to know about these things. Trust me, this guy is only with you for what you can offer him.”
Ezinne shook her head. “No dad. Don’t talk about him like that when you don’t know him. All I ask is that you meet with him, please… Do it if you love me, dad.”
Ezinne held her fathers unrelenting stare, her eyes pleading with him.
“Okay,” her father folded his arms over his chest. “And if I meet him what next?”
“Just assess him dad. Talk to him and you’ll see how smart he is,” she said as hope brightened in her heart.
“Okay, so what if he’s smart. It doesn’t mean he’s the one for you,” He stated.
“Dad, if your issue with him is that he’s too poor for your standard, why don’t you just sponsor his trip so he can get his degree? Then he wouldn’t be a riff raff anymore,” Ezinne spoke without thinking, losing her patience. She regretted her words the moment they were out there as her father’s face hardened even more.
“That’s the end game isn’t it?”
“What?” She asked, knowing she’d lost her dad’s attention and wondered if she ever had it in the first place.
“He put you up to this, didn’t he? This has been his plan all along, to get money from me. Oh, now I see it clearly.”
“No of course not. He didn’t put me up to anything. I just… Is there anything wrong if you paid for his ticket out of the country? That’s all he needs, he’s on a full scholarship to Caltech already…” She tried explaining, but she might have well have been speaking to a tree.
“Don’t be fooled, Ezinne! The boy probably doesn’t have any offer of admission anywhere….”
She shook her head in exasperation. “Dad! He’s the best graduating student in the Engineering faculty. His result is setting a new record in the faculty. He’s really smart, dad… He’s much more than you think.”
Her father stood staring at her, but saying nothing. Maybe he now understood, she began to hope.
“You know what? I don’t care if he’s Mark Zuckerberg, he’s not the one for you. You and Ekene work whatever it is between you two. I invited Ekene over to dinner tomorrow evening and you’ve got to be there.” He said, and his tone told her his decision was final, and he was done with this discussion.
Her jaw dropped in surprise. “But Dad-”
“No buts. I’ve said all I need to say on this issue. Be here by 7pm tomorrow evening.” He said turning to leave her room.
Ezinne dropped back on her seat speechless. For a moment there, she’d thought she’d finally gotten through to him. What was so wrong about being poor, she wondered.
With a sigh, she shook her head. she just might never understand her father. Anyway it wasn’t like she cared about whatever he said; she already knew who she wanted to be with and no decree from the General or even the President would keep her from him.
“Mom’s really worried about you, Mofe.”
Mofe turned to his cousin, looking away from his computer, where he was working. After the attack, he’d returned to his Aunt’s place as he couldn’t be sure what these guys had planned for him next. He knew Ekene was behind it all and he had to lay low for a while in the case Ezinne’s crazy ex-boyfriend had more attacks planned for him.
“Why? I told her I was fine,” he asked.
“You come home with bruises all over your body and you think she wouldn’t be worried?” Eric asked in return. “We don’t need to be geniuses like you to know you’re not saying what really happened.”
“I’ve told you that some guys jumped me… what more do you want me to say?” Mofe asked.
“Yeah, they jumped you but didn’t rob you or anything. That isn’t odd at all, is it?” Eric replied sarcastically.
“Look Eric just leave me alone, please.” Mofe turned back to his computer, “I’ve told you all you need to know.”
“I hope this has nothing to do with that Ezinne girl?” Eric asked again.
Mofe tried to keep a calm exterior. Shrugging his shoulders, he asked, “Did I say it had anything to do with her?”
“See Cuz, by now you should know that I can tell when you’re lying. This had something to do with her, didn’t it?”
Mofe kept silent and didn’t reply. Instead, he kept up with his work on the computer, ignoring Eric.
“I don’t know your problem Mofe! This girl will get you into some serious shit one of these days. Messing with an army General’s daughter like this….what do you even see in her? She’s just a piece of ass, there are so many-”
“Shut up! Just shut up, Eric!” Mofe finally lost it with his cousin. He turned to Eric, pointing a finger at him as he warned him, “she is not a piece of ass and the next time you refer to her disrespectfully, you will regret it.”
Mofe had never been physical with his cousin before but he was tempted to connect his fist with his cousin’s jaw hard, for calling Ezinne such a derogatory term.
“Hey! What’s going on here? What’s the yelling about?” His aunt opened the door to the bedroom, peering in.
“Nothing.” Mofe replied, returning to his work on the screen.
“Nothing.” Eric replied getting his things together. “I was just leaving anyway.”
“Where are you going?” Aunt Mope asked.
“Home…unlike some people here, I don’t have to hide out in my mother’s apartment.” Eric replied brushing past his mother at the door to leave.
Mofe heard his cousin but he pretended not to.
“What’s that supposed to mean, Eric?” His aunt asked her son and Mofe heard him reply, “Ask Mofe,” just before slamming the front door behind him.
“Mofe…” Aunt Mope turned on him now “What’s this about? Does it have anything to do with the attack last night? Is there something you’re not telling me?”
“You know how melodramatic Eric gets. It’s nothing you should worry about.” Mofe said, briefly glancing from the screen to his aunt and back, hoping his aunt didn’t probe further.
“Mofe… are you in trouble? Is that why you came back here? To hide from whoever attacked you? And does this have anything to do with Ezinne?”
“No Mom, it doesn’t. I was jumped by some unknown people, that’s all,” he lied smoothly. “I’m here because I want to be, because I want to keep an eye on you after you last episode….. Besides do I now need a reason to be at my mom’s place?”
“No you don’t, dear.” His Aunt stepped into the room, “It’s just… you’ve never come home with bruises before and I’ve noticed the tension between you and Eric since you’ve been with that girl. Who is she, Mofe?”
“Like I said, Eric is being overly dramatic. There’s nothing to worry about. Ezinne is not a problem to anyone.”
“Mofe, who is that girl exactly? What haven’t you told me?” Aunt Mofe asked him, and he knew he couldn’t throw her off with a lie this time.
“She..she’s the daughter of the General that lives next door to me.” He stuttered knowing what was coming next.
“What?” His Aunt frowned. “You’re dating a General’s daughter?”
“Yes, Mom, I am. I like Ezinne a lot and she feels the same for me.” He replied tersely.
His aunt sighed. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
Mofe shrugged, “I like her, that’s all that matters.”
His aunt inclined her head to the side, watching him. After a short while she finally spoke, “Mofe, I’ve told you the story about your parents… your dad was wealthy and your mom… my twin sister… they were madly in love but when they passed, their family treated you like nothing…”
“I know the story mom, you’ve told me so many times.” He told her, not needing to hear it again.
“So… are you sure you know what you’re doing?” She asked again.
Before Mofe could reply there was a knock on the front door and his aunt left the room to answer it.
Mofe let out a breath as her words resounded in his mind. Did he really know what he was doing? He loved Ezinne but he wasn’t sure how low her ex was willing to go to get him out of the way. It was the reason why he was holed up at his aunt’s place, in the case Ekene decided to finish the job he’d begun.
“I’m fine ma…. Thanks…. Yes, I’m here to see Mofe…”
He heard Ezinne’s voice and jumped up from the seat, knowing why she was around. He should have known she would come looking for him when she didn’t hear from him in twenty four hours. Suddenly he was feeling very guilty as he’d not called her since the incident two nights back. He wasn’t exactly sure why he hadn’t called. A part of him had probably been hoping she would come looking for him, another part of him didn’t want to alarm her unnecessarily. He couldn’t be sure how she would react when she found out Ekene had hired thugs to rough him up.
Knowing Ezinne, she would have gone to confront Ekene herself and he couldn’t have that. He didn’t want her ever to be alone with that bastard. There was no telling what the unstable guy could do.
He got out of the room just as his aunt was pointing Ezinne to it and she turned to see him. The beginning of her smile died just as it started. She frowned, staring at him in surprise.
Even though he’d tried shielding his face he’d still taken a few hits. His right eye was still a little swollen and dark, plus he had a split lip that was still healing.
“Jesus!” She exclaimed in shock. “What in the world happened to you?” She asked, dropping her handbag and running to him. Lightly placing her hand over the tender skin around his eye, she asked again, “what happened, Mofe?”
Mofe exchanged glances with his aunt who he knew also needed answers. She’d not bought the story that he’d been randomly attacked.
Taking Ezinne’s hand, Mofe pulled her into his room. “I’m fine,” he replied quietly.
“What do you mean you’re fine when you have bruises like this on your face? When did this happen? Why in the world didn’t you call me? I’ve not been able to reach you for two days…what the hell happened,Mofe?”
Mofe sighed. He had to tell her or she wouldn’t let it go.
“I’ll tell you what happened but promise you won’t freak out.”
Her frown deepened. “What do you mean I shouldn’t freak out? You’re bruised all over and you expect me to be calm about it? Plus you just disappeared for two whole days. ”
“Shh… Zinné please keep your voice down…. Please, I don’t want to get my Mom worried.” He pulled her to sit beside him on the bed but she drew away from his, running her hand over the bruises on his face instead.
“What in the world happened to you MJ? Were you in an accident? Talk nau, Mofe!” With every question she asked, her voice raised a notch higher.
“I was mugged, Ezinne!” He gave in before she became full on hysterical. “A group of guys roughened me up a little.” He said, knowing it wasn’t the truth but he couldn’t tell her the truth.
“On my way home two nights back, just outside my gate.”
“Oh my! Thank goodness you’re alright! But the estate is quite safe, never heard of something like this happening before. They took your phone and stuff, is that why you couldn’t reach me?
Before he could reply, her gaze caught his computer sitting on the desk and she knew something wasn’t right. She also saw his phone.
“You got mugged but they didn’t take your phone or computer?” She asked.
He wanted to lie and say he’d not been with his devices at the time but he couldn’t lie to her.
“What are you not telling me, MJ?” She asked staring him in the eyes. She definitely knew something was off.
“What do you mean?” He asked lamely.
“I mean, you were mugged and your stuff which you always have on you were not taken… What sort of mugging is that?” She saw through the holes in his story like a sieve.
“I don’t …I…just let it go, Zinné…it’s past and I’m fine. That’s what matters.” He said lamely, trying to get her to let it go, but Ezinne never let anything go so easily.
“And you didn’t even reach out to me, when you had your phone….Why would you keep me out of the loop? Why…. Except you thought I had something to do with it?” Her eyes widened with surprised and he suspected she was beginning to piece it all together
“I just didn’t want to trouble you with it…ofcourse I know you had nothing to do….” His voice trailed mid sentence as he saw realization dawn in her eyes.
“It was Ekene….wasn’t it?” She whispered, finally dropping on the bed to sit next to him. “Two nights ago I had dinner with Ekene, I laughed at him and got him really angry…. I knew he would lash out, but never thought he would lash out at you like this. This was all my fault and you were probably right to stay away. They told you to, didn’t they?”
“Ezinne, this wasn’t your fault…. But wait, you had dinner with your ex?” He asked, surprised at this new piece of information.
“Yes, but that’s not the issue right now. The issue is what he did to you..jeez! look at your face, and you kept it from me. Wait, they told you to stay away, didn’t they? That’s why you didn’t call….”
“Yes but-” He was about to defend his actions. He wanted to tell her he hadn’t wanted to alarm her unnecessarily but she cut him off.
“It’s probably for the best…” she said and Mofe did a double take, not sure what he’d just heard. Had she just agreed that he was right to keep the news of his attack from her?
“What’s probably for the best?” He asked.
“Ekene is volatile, I can’t tell what lengths he’s prepared to go. There’s something not right about him, so it’s probably best we….” Her voice faltered as she looked away from him. “It’s best we stayed apart for now.”
Mofe shot upfront the bed, turning to look at her, “What-what? What do you mean we should be apart? Are you breaking up with me, Ezinne?”
“It’s the sensible thing to do…I don’t want something to happen… I couldn’t live with myself if I got you hurt,” she explained.
She got up, picked her bag and stepped away from him. Mofe stared at her, shocked speechless.
“You’re just going to take your leave just like that? You’re just going to end us just like that…. Is that why you met with him two nights ago? To talk about getting back with him?”
“Oh, just stop it Mofe! You know better than anyone else that I’m done with him. I’m doing this for your sake. If being with you will get you hurt, I can’t do it. I can barely look at you right now knowing I was the cause of all this.” She gestured at his face, but Mofe wasn’t letting her leave him. He’d be damned if he let her leave.
“Ezinne…” He tried to hold her arm but she pushed him off. He tried again, grasping her arm and pulling her to himself, forcing his lips on hers. He kissed her closed lips till she went weak against him, and gave in to his kiss. She parted her lips and let him in.
He pulled her closer into him, murmuring against her lips. “I couldn’t live with myself if you left me. I can take many more beatings, my body can take it but my heart could never survive losing you. That’s my greatest fear Ezinne, losing you.”
She stared up at him, “it hurts seeing you bruised up like this,Mofe. I can’t be with you, Ekene…..”
He cut her off, “I can’t be without you…and I know you can’t be without me either. You know this.”
She sighed holding his gaze, “but I’ve got to do something about this…I’ve got to get the point across to Ekene somehow that he can’t bully me or you to get what he wants.”
‘Ezinne…I don’t want you doing anything rash. Like you said that guy is unstable, I wouldn’t want him to hurt you,” he said.
She began pulling away from him, giving them distance but Mife wasn’t ready to let her go. He tried to pull her back but she shook her head.
“I know what I’ve got to do.” She said looking him dead in the eye.
“What?” He asked curious.
She smiled suddenly and Mofe frowned wondering what plan she had brewing in her head.
Suddenly she took his hands in hers and clasped tightly. “I need you to trust me, Mofe…. Can you do that?”
“Okay…sure, of course.” He said even though he was quite scared of what she would come up with. “What are you planning on doing?”
“Get your things together MJ…we are going to my place.”
Okay….and what are we going to do there?”
“We are going to get my stuff.”
Mofe frowned, for a so called genius, he was totally lost at the moment, “okay…. Why…?”
“Why else? I’m moving in with you.” She replied.